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LSSU’s Banished Words List is Decadent and Depraved

January 11, 2010

It’s that time of year again: Lake Superior State University has published their “List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness,” and, once again, it is written in the same drab, condescending tone I find so common among my inferiors.

Once again, LSSU uses the term “Queen’s English,” which, depending on your dictionary, refers to either standard/accepted English speech, or English as spoken by educated persons in southern England. If we go with the latter definition, then we have to ask what business LSSU, an American university at that, has dictating the proper speech of the Cornish literati (assuming they exist…). If we go with the former definition, then we assume each word is standardized and acceptable English already. As well they should be.

The list:

  • · shovel-ready
  • · transparent/transparency
  • · czar
  • · tweet
  • · app
  • · sexting
  • · friend as a verb
  • · teachable moment
  • · in these economic times….
  • · stimulus
  • · toxic assets
  • · too big to fail
  • · bromance
  • · chillaxin
  • · obama-prefix or roots?

Of the 15 (technically 14, as “obama-prefix or roots” was tossed in solely by LSSU), only eight—or 53 percent—are single words, the rest are either terms or phrases. “Shovel-ready,” “friend as a verb,” “teachable moment,” “in these economic times,” “stimulus,” are charged with overuse; “transparent/transparency” with misuse; “toxic assets” and “too big to fail” with uselessness; “czar” with misuse and overuse; “tweet” with overuse and uselessness; and the rest were simply unliked.

And despite the alleged “tens of thousands of recommendations,” the entries this year are especially bland. Several of them—“shovel-ready,” “transparent/transparency,” “teachable moment”—I’ve never encountered before this list. “Czar,” “sexting,” and “toxic assets,” I’ve heard, but never thought over- or misused and certainly not useless.

shovel-ready” leads the pack with four “criticisms.” Jerry Redington dislikes the term because it confuses him; Pat Batcheller finds it overused but fails to explain why; Karen Hill is upset that it was used in tandem with the term “cyber-ready”; and Joe Grimm simply proclaims the term “done.”

None of these detractors explain what, precisely their dissatisfaction with the term stems from.Johann Eschenberg predicts that “transparent/transparency” will be the new buzzword of 2010, which, it would seem, would make the words candidates for next year’s list, not this year’s.

The arguments against “czar” are even weaker, in that its detractors are instead railing against the federal government’s numerous “czar” appointments.

The mysterious “Ricardo” from the Yucatan provides the only valid criticism of the word “tweet,” stating that he, “just heard the word ‘tweet’ so many times it lost all meaning.” Fair enough, but the same charge could be leveled against such words as “the,” “to,” and even the expressions, “um” and “er.” Would he—and to a larger extent LSSU—be comfortable banishing those from our lexicon?

Edward R. Bolt and Kuahmel Allah decry the abbreviated word “app” (short for “application”), evidently they’d prefer some language akin to German, that is, one that takes roughly several days to express a simple sentence.

Ishamel Daro maintains that, “Any dangerous new trend that also happens to have a clever mash-up of words, involves teens, and gets television talk show hosts interested must be banished” when he faults the word “sexting.” Evidently he feels that such problems, and the words used to describe them, should be ignored and by doing so, they will simply go away. Is not that much more dangerous?

Kevin Morris proposes that we uses the word “befriend” in place of using “friend as a verb,” but, assuming brevity is his aim, is not a monosyllabic more brief than the two syllables that make up “befriend”?

teachable moment,” could be charged for being inarticulate, but unfortunately is not. Eric Rosenquist says it’s “condescending,” but that’s a point of subjectivity. Kuamel Allah says that, “if everything’s a ‘teachable moment,’ we should all have teaching credentials.” Perhaps we should, or perhaps we should examine our educational standards. “Jodi from Ohio” laments the term’s versatility—isn’t that more an argument for it usefulness?

in these economic times” is a dubious phrase, and I agree with Three Rivers’ Barb Stutesman, who says, “Overused and redundant. Aren’t ALL times ‘these economic times’?” Would that she’d take to task the pundits who keep it alive.

The inclusion of “stimulus” worries me, as it’s similar to “in these economic times” in that its alleged overuse suggests something more than the dumbing-down of language.

toxic assets” is just unliked: “What a wretched term!”

too big to fail” is not so much lamented as are the people who use it. Both Claire Shefchik and “Holli from Raleigh” make decent points: “Just for the record, nothing’s too big to fail unless the government lets it”; and “Does such a thing exist? We’ll never know if a company is too big to fail, unless somehow it does fail, and then it will no longer be too big to fail. Make it stop!” respectively, but neither is an argument for abandoning the term.

I could get on board with charging “bromance” for overuse, as you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Paul Rudd movie, but its critics maintain that it’s useless, which is pretty much the opposite.

chillaxin’”: Tammy from the Sault makes a good point: “Heard everywhere from MTV to ESPN to CNN. A bothersome term that seeks to combine chillin’ with relaxin’ makes me want to be ‘axin’ this word.” So yeah, that one’s okay.

Obama-prefix or roots?” was inserted by the selectment committee despite it receiving no nominations. They further note that “Obamanomics,” “Obamanation,” “Obamafication,” “Obamacare,” “Obamalicious,” and “Obamaland” made it into the 2009 Oxford Dictionary. That fact merely vindicates the terms’ usefulness…and makes me wonder whether they’d be up for banishing “Reaganomics,” or perhaps something broader, such as Italian fascism…or maybe National Socialism.

I know the list is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but, judging from the comments, this list and others like it only proves that the people nominating each “word” confuse the means of communication with the individuals using them—that is, it’s not so much the “word” they fault as it is the people using it. When there is a charge levied, it’s generally for overuse. But to me a term is overused for one of two reasons: Either 1) It’s not being overused; it’s just a very useful term or 2) The people using it are careless with how they express themselves. Again, neither reason faults the “word,” however, and instead of blaming the “word,” we’d all be better off helping the individuals who overuse, misuse, and carelessly use it.

That’s my standard spiel against the list, but this year, I feel an added charge should be addressed. Of the 15, nine, nine, well over 50 percent of the words—“shovel-ready,” “transparent/transparency,” “czar,” “teachable moment,” “in these economic times,” “stimulus,” “toxic assets,” “too big to fail,” and LSSU’s heinous interjection of “obama-prefix or roots?”—are identified as political terms. I submit that with this list LSSU is pushing for a new era in communication akin to 1984’s newspeak—wherein logic and thought are muddled through an inferior vocabulary. The Wiki-entry for newspeak—“Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suits the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking—‘thoughtcrime,’ or ‘crimethink’ in the newest edition of Newspeak—impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on”—could likewise describe LSSU’s intent.

Whatever their reasons, we must stand guard against the evil word czars of LSSU and anyone else who seeks to stifle our freedom. The list stopped being funny years ago; the only explanation for its continued existence hence must be the systematic destruction of liberty. And, if we’re doing nominations for uselessness, this tops my list.


One Response to “ LSSU’s Banished Words List is Decadent and Depraved ”

  1. Sara on January 11, 2010 at 10:13 am

    LSSU knows all of you below-the-bridge Trolls aren’t wiling to pay the toll to go up there and kick their bums. That’s probably why the list continues.
    Ps. I believe you mean ‘Wickey-entry’.